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Diamondback Terrapin Head-Start Project

Where: Coastal Georgia, U.S.
 
 
Continue Zoo Atlanta's efforts to support this critical conservation project.

Zoo Atlanta partners with the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on a project to protect diamondback terrapins and their native habitats.

Female terrapins injured by cars are nursed back to health at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, Ga. Eggs retrieved from turtles killed by automobiles are incubated, hatched, and raised at Zoo Atlanta and at the Center. By observing the size of the eggs, number of eggs per clutch, and size and growth rates of the hatchlings, we are able to gather valuable information about the diamondback terrapin’s reproductive biology. Because it’s important that these juveniles not become accustomed to humans, they are reared in an off-exhibit head start facility on Zoo grounds.

Each turtle is individually color-marked so that we can monitor growth and health. As the turtles grow, scientific staff is able to study gender differences. Variations in size and shape of males vs. females can help to determine at what age the turtles’ sexes can be identified.

Terrapins are reared at Zoo Atlanta until they are about 9 months old and large enough to be less vulnerable to predators. The turtles will then be released back into their native habitats along the Georgia coast.

Who:
Zoo Atlanta and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

 

Why:
Diamondback terrapins live only in brackish water where coastal marshes meet the ocean. This species became very popular for turtle soup in the last century, and populations were dramatically overharvested. The turtles also drown accidentally in crab traps, and nesting females are often hit by cars as they try to cross roads.

Fortunately, turtle soup has declined in popularity, and property owners and crabbers are taking more careful steps to reduce their impact on diamondback terrapins.